November 30, 2009

Can't fight this feeling

As we begin to incorporate solids into Roscoe's feeding routine we take our first step toward weaning. So far our nursing relationship has been a challenging adventure that continues to exceed my expectations. It is sad to realize that reaching this milestone marks the beginning of the end.*

My mom breastfed me, my sister, and my brother. It never crossed my mind to feed my kids any differently. Reinforcing the innate and animalistic nature of mother and child, Roscoe latched on within minutes of being born, but it didn't take long to find out that in this day and age breastfeeding often requires more from both parties, than putting mouth to boob.

The beginning was awkward, and intimate. I was self conscious nursing in the presence of visiting friends and family. Abruptly, the circumstances necessitated a new mindset: my breasts, once a largely sexual--and private--part of my body, were now a means to nourish this tiny, pink, bundle. Anytime. Anywhere. All the time. Everywhere.

Nursing was the one thing that I had not given much thought or research, the only thing I simply trusted would come naturally. With an ex-lactation consultant midwife, and a theoretical community of support via our birthing class, I assumed that if we did happen to run into trouble, certainly someone would know how to fix it.

It took less than 7 days and I was braving the challenges of new motherhood with bleeding, burning nipples.

I cringed with every hunger cry belted from Roscoe's ravenous mouth. At times I wanted to grab my breasts and run far, far, away--in fact, I imitated this very act many times to offer humor to an otherwise emotionally conflicted situation. In one arm I had Roscoe: 7 pounds of newborn with a belly the size of a marble, and an appetite to rival his own mother's. He needed food to grow, and I wanted so badly to feed him. In the other arm I had growing feelings of inadequacy as the task of serving his meals became more difficult and less appealing. I wanted an out, and started looking for the exit.

But what I really wanted was for our breastfeeding relationship to be easier. In truth, I'd never actually watched a baby breastfeed, but from the looks of it didn't babies just open their mouths, latch on, and begin to eat? Why was this so hard for me?

I persevered with the assumption that our problems would resolve on their own, but two weeks went by with no relief, and I was desperate and determined to make this work. La Leche League to the rescue! I wasn't alone after all. My take home message: This is common. Stick with it. It may take as long as 6 to 9 weeks, but eventually breastfeeding will become effortless.

I kept that truth in the back of my mind as I searched the internet for more functional advice. With time I did get the hang of nursing, and Roscoe got the hang of it too. By week six both Roscoe and I were fluent in the art of breastfeeding.

In those early days I did not "recognize" Roscoe, he was so new to me. The only time I felt I truly knew him was when I nursed him. His facial expressions, his grunts, the way his body curled into mine--it was when I nursed that he became familiar. There are qualities of nursing that are difficult to put to words but even in our first days together, breastfeeding inspired me in ways that I had not expected. Never in my life have I gazed into another's eyes as long, or etched so clearly into my mind the features of another human being. The frenzy of feeding is sweet. The rhythmic breaths and gulps come in spurts and I'm completely captivated. My needs as his mother--to ensure his health, and contentment, to meet his need for touch, comfort, and undivided attention, to nurture him, among other things--is largely satisfied during our time spent nursing. Never has his dependency on me been as obvious, or his need for me as blatant.

My body is capable of not only growing and carrying a human being, but also nourishing him exclusively for the first 6 months of his life. I'm a proud momma knowing Roscoe has thrived on my milk alone.

Which brings me back to earlier this afternoon when Roscoe ate with gusto the sweet potato, dates, and brown rice dinner that I prepared for him. I was delighted by his appetite and the apparent pleasure he expressed as he ate. I'm happy knowing that I will still have a role in nourishing my little babe, even after our nursing relationship has ended. And I'm especially pleased that even after he ate a large helping of dinner, he demanded to nurse shortly after.

* Don't worry, I have no intention to truly wean Roscoe any time soon :)

1 comment:

  1. Touching story to me Jacqueline.
    Love Mom.


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